Monday, October 1, 2012

Can you go home again?????

Going back to where you grew up can be a double edged sword. Some of you may have never left, some of you may have run as soon as you could, and some of you, like me, may have drifted back now and then without really seeing what was there. But heed the warning Thomas Wolfe gives us that "you can't go home again"
In his novel of the same name, Thomas Wolfe's character George Webber says "You can't go back home to your family, back home to your childhood ... back home to a young man's dreams of glory and of fame ... back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time – back home to the escapes of Time and Memory."
On the Birthday Party Trip for Beatrice's mother, we went back to the 'Village' where I grew up. Village you say?? In New Jersey??? YES!!!! The Village of South Orange is tucked into the Northeast corner of NJ, one of the most densely populated areas of the country. But as a kid, this was my idea of a small town. We knew our neighbors, our neighborhood, and most of the rest of the Village. We walked everywhere (even adults). To school, to friends houses, to the town pool, the community center, and the stores. 

South Orange1

In my neighborhood we had 2 grocery stores, 2 Deli's, a florist, 2 pharmacies, 2 Kosher butchers, clothing store, candy store (with soda fountain and nickel Cokes), 3 gas stations, a beauty salon, and all within a two block area. No this was not the center of town. In fact this was on the border of the City of Newark, and the Township of Maplewood. It was the bluest of the blue collar sections of the Village (once called 'Pork Hill' due to its proximity to the county 'poor farm' where they raised crops and what else, pigs.). But to me, it was the bestest of places to grow up. My grandparents and 2 aunts lived around the corner, cousins lived next to them. Five blocks in either direction were more cousins. My Grandfather and uncle (his brother) raised tomatoes and veggies in a huge garden. I even had cousins that still lived on a small farm two towns away, right in the middle of a housing development that I never noticed till I was older.

South Orange2
I was the third generation in my family to grow up in the Village. My father was a Captain in the Fire Department. His father owned an electrical store (that new fangled fad). My mom was a secretary and eventually a librarian at Seton Hall University. Oh, did I mention that we lived about a block off of the campus of SHU? Yes we went to sporting events there, and knew the students, professors, priests, and campus well. My mothers father (who had the big garden) owned a taxi cab company, and had a stand at the towns train station.

South Orange3

YES we even had a train station. The Delaware, Lackawanna, &Western Railroad ran right through the middle of the Village, could get you to midtown Manhattan in just 38 minutes on a good day. And that included a ferry boat ride across the Hudson River. More on the Train Station in another post.

South Orange
Both my parents three blocks away from each other. They were a year apart in school, and went to the same high school I went to. And the scary part was getting a teacher who had taught your parents and cousins (didn't think folks lived that long back then). And believe me, they remembered. I never knew till then what a rabble rouser my father was, but they remembered. The high school athletic fields were at the end of our street. They were our huge playground that sometimes took hours to cross, especially in the many blizzards we had back then (they've shrunk dramatically since then.)

South Orange4
YES, it was a great place to grow up. Good friends, good times, fun things to do. The kind of place that when you reminisce brings a smile to your face.
BUT!!!!!! i just read in the news that no longer will you be allowed to "SMILE" for your drivers license picture in New Jersey. They say it messes up their 'face recognition' software. I think they are just trying to scare us into "Never coming home again". I wonder if Thomas Wolfe is looking down and saying" see, I told ya!!!!!"
Not to worry though, I've been assured that the world famous "Jersey Single Finger Wave" is still allowed.


Don't unplug your hub. said...

An enjoyable post Grenville. Sounds like a wonderful childhood.
That photo business, in the future people are going to look and think, what a miserable lot they all were. I would have thought that a smile would be more recognisable than a miserable face.

Lois Evensen said...

Isn't it amazing - all of those feelings when you go back. Neat post.

Montanagirl said...

HaHa. Great post! I'm living back where I started so many years ago. The transition has been hard.

Anvilcloud said...

My goodness, I clicked on my blog list today, and there are scads of them, including six from you guys. I really don't think it's been that long between clicks either.

Referring to this post, the good thing is that we can also go home again in our memories, as you have just demonstrated.

Anonymous said...

In a way it sounds very much like where I grew up, also a village in the big city :-)

It was a poor neighborhood but we had everything at walking distance and we knew everyone living there :-)We kids couldn't do anything without our parents knowing it before we came home :-) :-)

Have a great day!

Pat transplanted to MN said...

I pondered that same thought about "going home" when we moved to MN from CA....this is hubby's hometown and though not like when he left in the 50's it has worked out for us. As for myself, I have had lots of time in PA, back home, to know I never want to live there. I never wanted to move back there. Well now all my family is at the cemetery but I have many friends from the old days, still given a choice, I do not want to live there. It is not the nice town it was when we grew up there and most of us left in the early 60's; there is terrible traffic, drugs in the old downtown that is a slum, etc. And although everyone is always glad to see us when we visit, I would not feel that I fit there anymore after a lifetime in CA. Have talked to many retiress who move around and going home ususally works for those with lots of family still alive. Interesting post of contrasts....and the final Jersey finger, well some things never change.

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